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A Family Affair review: Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, Joey King's Netflix film is a romantic comedy that fizzles into melodrama

A Family Affair review: Misplaced chemistry and melodrama plague the film, undermining its potential as a heartfelt romantic comedy.

A Family Affair review: Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, Joey King's Netflix film is a romantic comedy that fizzles into melodrama
A Family Affair review

Last Updated: 04.27 PM, Jun 28, 2024

A Family Affair story:

As a young woman (Joey King), her mother (Nicole Kidman), and her boss (Zac Efron)—a famous movie star—face the challenges of love, sex, and self-discovery, a comedic chain reaction begins with an unexpected romance. Being the assistant to a demanding movie star who doesn't value her work is challenging, but even more challenging is discovering that he harbours feelings for her mother.

A Family Affair review:

I think it's been just two months since we saw Anne Hathaway's character romance a younger celebrity played by Nicholas Galitzine in the Prime Video film The Idea of You. Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron follow a similar pattern in A Family Affair. The film takes a unique turn, with Efron portraying a prominent movie star, Chris Cole, and Joey King portraying Zara, his devoted assistant. However, the lovers' relationship begins with a similar setup, and it develops into more than just a casual affair.

The film begins with a lighthearted tone, promising comic relief until the end, but it only manages to last through the first act. The film primarily revolves around a romantic, high-stakes drama replete with the typical tropes of an older woman falling in love with a famous, much younger celebrity and the ensuing issues. Just like in The Idea of You, the daughter finds herself caught in the middle, bearing the brunt of the harsh realities.


Over the years, we have seen King start off as a child artist, playing challenging roles, and then come to the point where she becomes the leading actor while shouldering the whole project. However, in this instance, she makes a concerted effort to embody the energy of the main character, but ultimately, it remains merely aspirational.

In A Family Affair, Zara becomes frustrated with her boss's carefree attitude towards life, his lack of appreciation for her work, and his persistent threats. After two years of torment, Zara finally puts up a fight, despite never having looked down upon her job. She ultimately resigns, leaving Chris stunned by the fury she encounters. To make amends, Chris visits her home, where he encounters her mother, Brooke (Kidman), and immediately gets smitten by her. In no time, they can't take their hands off each other, and Zara catches them in the act. 

This leads to a turbulent relationship for Zara with both her mother and her boss. But that's the end of the comedic structure for A Family Affair.

From that point on, the drama unfolds, revealing Zara as a self-centred villain. This extends not only to her mother but also to her best friend Eugenie (Liza Koshy), who, despite having her own problems, appears insignificant to Zara.

Everyone seems to have different ideas on what A Family Affair is about, but all it looks like is that it involves relationships, white lies, and a misunderstanding in the third act. For instance, neither Richard LaGravenese's direction nor Carrie Solomon's screenplay adequately address the numerous discussions about whether the other characters are dead or alive. The characters are so self-absorbed that the backstory, or even the mention of Brooke and her deceased husband's impending divorce before his death, feels like a forced addition, intended to demonstrate her undeserved happiness. Nothing about it resembles the carefree maturity of The Idea of You, not to mention the chemistry involved.

Though there are some mismatched performances, overall, it's not a horrible show. Efron performs a sincere and excellent job while in his comedy mode. King, who starred in the Kissing Booth series on Netflix, has gone back to her signature, over-the-top teen movie acting. 

Kidman is merely there to have fun; however, she possesses the rare ability to let her hair down and stay composed. Even in the most ridiculous romantic comedies, she effortlessly embodies this kind of casual allure. Here, though, she appears to have no chemistry with anyone other than Kathy Bates, who plays the mother of her late husband. After having its unique premise ripped out from under it, A Family Affair is now nothing more than an afterthought, despite the fact that it had the potential to sell itself in the first place.

A Family Affair is another film in the romantic comedy genre that focuses solely on thought, leaving the rest unimpressive. The slate of unimpressive films in this favourite Hollywood genre continues.

A Family Affair verdict:

A Family Affair strives to be a heartfelt rom-com but trips over its own melodrama. Ultimately, this family affair feels more like a familial faux pas, leaving audiences yearning for a comedy that truly marries humour with heart.

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